YouTube announced that it now supports 360-degree video for live streams, and spatial audio. Both of these technologies have the potential to fundamentally change the video streaming experience, and put you in control of experiencing the scene as if you were physically there.
Streaming video in general—and YouTube specifically—have already transformed the way people share with each other and interact with the world. YouTube puts hundreds of millions of videos on every possible topic at your virtual fingertips. Almost anything you might want to learn how to do, or anything you want to see can be accessed via YouTube. Now, YouTube wants to provide more realistic audio and visual experiences that literally allow you to feel like you’re there.
“What excites me most about 360-degree storytelling is that it lets us open up the world’s experiences to everyone. Students can now experience news events in the classroom as they unfold. Travelers can experience faraway sites and explorers can deep-sea dive, all without the physical constraints of the real world,” proclaimed Neal Mohan, Chief Product Officer for YouTube in a blog post. “And today’s kids dreaming of going to a basketball game or a concert can access those experiences firsthand, even if they’re far away from the court. What were once limited experiences are now available to anyone, anywhere, at any time.”
The 360-degree live streaming requires that the YouTube creator have a camera that supports capturing 360-degree video. Thankfully, the barrier to entry isn’t too high. There are high-end 360-degree camera rigs that can be quite expensive, but the entry-level devices are fairly affordable.
From the end-user perspective, however, you don’t need any new or special technology. Whether you’re watching the YouTube video on a PC, tablet, smartphone, or other device, a circle in the upper-left corner of the video gives you directional control to change your point of view and look around as the video is streaming.
The technology works very well, but I did have a minor issue. Frequently as I tried to click on the circle to navigate around the field of vision it instead interpreted it as a click on the video itself—which pauses playback. The nice thing is that you can still play with the direction and navigate while the video is paused, and then start the action again.
The one caveat that may make this a less-than-awesome experience for many is bandwidth. I enjoy a 100Mbps-plus connection for my home broadband, and my 4G / LTE is pretty strong from my mobile devices. Many people, however, don’t have access to the fast broadband speeds necessary to transmit 360-degree live streaming video smoothly.